» USA Poker

Your guide to playing online poker in the USA – the latest information and news on poker for US players.

1. Introduction

Back in the day you wouldn’t be reading this. Maybe you should have been but you weren’t! We all thought we were safe playing poker online, wherever we were (well maybe not in Iran) but then all that changed on what American poker players came to refer to as “Black Friday” – the day that the US federal government’s crackdown on Internet gambling suddenly became real.

It all started way back on October 13th, 2006, when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was signed into law by George W. Bush. The act prohibits, “gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments in connection with the participation of another person in a bet or wager that involves the use of the Internet and that is unlawful under any federal or state law”. And US federal law says betting on sports is illegal. (Is poker a sport?)

The signs were there – actions against payment processors, delays in withdrawals – but in retrospect, maybe it’s not surprising we were caught off guard – it took five years for federal authorities to take any serious action against poker sites accepting US players. However, on April 15th, 2011, three online poker websites (PokerStars, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt) were indicted for their part in making it possible for US players to continue enjoying poker online. They are alleged to have committed everything from fraud to money laundering in order to keep the poker money flowing freely.

2. Impact on US Players

Most real money online poker sites have officially stopped accepting players from the US. However, the true impact goes much further than just a question of access. When US players were blocked, any money they held in accounts with these sites was frozen and could not be accessed. It wasn’t the first time players had found it difficult to withdraw money from their poker accounts but it was by far the most severe.

Pokerstars has already reimbursed much of its customers’ money while Full Tilt has so far only offered good intentions. One reason could be that money in Full Tilt’s player accounts was not properly separated – US federal prosecutors have even likened Full Tilt to a Ponzi (or pyramid) scheme designed to make initial investors richer at the expense of later arrivals.

However, importantly so far there are few if any cases of players being prosecuted for playing poker online. As a result, mainly conclude that is safe for Americans to play poker online for money, to the extent that is continues to be possible to withdraw money.

3. Legalization

For many, the best chance of getting their money back may be legalization and regulation. For others, who’ve lost all trust in online poker sites, this will be the only thing that gets them back at the virtual card tables. What once seemed a long way off, now may not be. Rumors about possible law changes have even made into the New York Times.

NYtimes.com reports findings from a US congressional committee that legalised online gambling could generate $42 billion in tax revenue. In fact, believing that it can increase annual tax revenue by $14 million, the District of Columbia, Washington D.C. (the US capital!) has already legalized online gambling.

Experts, pointing to additional bills underway, predict that this is just the beginning. In the coming months look out for new online poker regulations from the following states:

  • Iowa
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • California

If these bills and other like them are successful then the safety of our poker money should be one less thing for us to worry about. There will surely be other things for us to worry about instead (poker bots for one!) but at least we should be able to withdraw money without having to wait three months for it to be deposited in our accounts.

4. Mobile Poker for US Players

Here at poker-apps.org we think that legalization and the re-opening of the market to American players could be especially helpful for the smartphone poker networks. Poker apps for US players are particularly hard to find due to the difficulty of downloading a real money poker app to a US cell phone. Some operators (e.g. Switch Poker) have come up with innovative solutions involving new banking mechanisms like Bitcoin and browser-based web applications but the real breakthrough will come when apps like Pokerstars mobile can accept downloads from Americans phone owners.

Another point worth considering is that with small mobile poker networks there are less likely to be poker bot apps that are both compatible with the a mobile phone OS and with the network also. Less bots should mean fairer games.